Washington Post's Ezra Klein predicts that Mitt Romney will enjoy three big primary wins today with: voters, GOP endorsements and the media. I agree for reasons I enumerated yesterday. But how will this new, victorious Romney treat Ron Paul? Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are important enough GOP figures that they'll get prominent convention roles and/or spots in the Romney administration. But will Romney and Paul's alleged flirtation in the primary result in a full-blown love affair or a break-up going forward?
Unfortunately, I noted yesterday in The Daily the latter is the more plausible scenario:
Paul is in it for the long haul because he is using the GOP primary not to win the nomination but to build a movement. He wants an impressive enough delegate count to force the GOP to show him some respect at the convention and give his base tangible proof of his powers. But, sadly, after today, the GOP will begin marginalizing him.
Despite Paul's impressive gains this time, he will still have fewer delegates than either of the other candidates -- and they are less manipulable for political ends. Therefore, they will be less useful for Romney even if he needs them. But he won't. So Paul will be in no position to call the shots at the convention.
Paul will get a speaking role. But the pressure will be on him to moderate his anti-war and "anti-American" views – not on Romney or the GOP-establishment to tone down their saber rattling. Paul's foreign policy views are in sharp conflict with those of the hawkish conservative base -- to whom Romney has been shamelessly pandering. Therefore, the choice that Paul will confront will be to stick to his fiscal and economic messages and tone down or altogether nix his foreign policy positions in exchange for a prime-time speaking spot. Or keep them and compete for attention with daytime soaps.
Although Paul has made impressive progress, his movement is still not strong enough to move the GOP in his direction. In fact, that might never happen because his ideas might have reached the outer limits of their appeal in the GOP. To grow his movement further, he might have to look for other pastures.
Paulistas have been hinting that Paul is working on a secret strategy to exploit the GOP's arcane caucus rules to pick up delegates. But Washington was the first test of this strategy and it got Pual an estimated 5 delegates – the same as Santorum -- to Romney's 30. Now Paulistas are pinning their hopes on Idaho. In fact, reports the Guardian:
In a cheeky move aimed at tweaking the nose of the Romney campaign, the Paul team in Idaho has recruited members of Romney's family; the campaign is touting five distant relatives who all bear the surname Romney but at the caucuses will be urging Idaho residents to vote for Paul.
"I support Ron Paul because he defends the constitution, loves America and understands what it means to be an American," said Travis Romney, who is a second cousin once removed to the former Massachusetts governor.
But uber-statistician Nate Silver sees Paul picking up only 25 delegates today bringing his delegate count to a grand total of 45. The number needed to win the nomination is 1,144, a goal that Paul hadn't formally abandoned as of last weekend. (Wink, wink.)